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Deployment of Spouse Increases Risk of Depression During Pregnancy


Deployment of a spouse has been found to double the risk of depression during pregnancy or the postpartum period.

Denise C. Smith, of the Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash., and colleagues have published the findings of their retrospective study in the September issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The researchers reviewed departmental database of women who completed the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale during pregnancy from 2007 to 2009. Screening was done per departmental protocol at the initial obstetric visit, at 28 weeks of gestation, and at 6 weeks postpartum. The survey added the additional question asking if the patient's spouse was currently deployed, returning from deployment, preparing to deploy, or if no deployment was planned. Those with no deployment planned made up the control group.

A total of 3,956 surveys were complete and available for analysis. Any woman with a score of 14 or higher was considered high risk for having depression, and referral for additional evaluation was recommended.

Depression risk during pregnancy high in women whose husbands are deployed

The researchers found spouse deployment during the 28–32 week visit (4.3% compared with 13.1%, P=.012) or the postpartum period (8.1% compared with 16.2%, P=.006) more than doubled the risk of a positive screen compared with the control group.

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Depression during pregnancy or in the postpartum period my affect up to 20% of women. Risk factors for depression associated with pregnancy include:

  1. History in yourself or a family member of anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder
  2. Limited social support
  3. Financial stressors
  4. Marital conflict
  5. Living alone

All of the above risk factors can be significantly affected by the deployment of the pregnant woman’s spouse.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of depression may include the following:

  1. Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" feelings
  2. Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  3. Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
  4. Irritability, restlessness
  5. Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  6. Fatigue and decreased energy
  7. Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
  8. Insomnia, early–morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  9. Overeating, or appetite loss
  10. Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  11. Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment

Related stories
Depression in Pregnancy and Postpartum
Postpartum Blues And Depression Possible Cause Identified

Effects of Deployment on Depression Screening Scores in Pregnancy at an Army Military Treatment Facility; Smith, Denise C. CNM; Munroe, Michelle L. CNM; Foglia, Lisa M. MD; Nielsen, Peter E. MD; Deering, Shad H. MD; Obstetrics & Gynecology: September 2010 - Volume 116 - Issue 3 - pp 679-684; doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e3181eb6c84

National Institute of Mental Health